RIO DE JANEIRO — U.S Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has apologized for his behavior surrounding a late-night incident at a Rio de Janeiro gas station, saying he should have been more “careful and candid” about how he described what happened.
“This was a situation that could and should have been avoided,” Lochte said. “I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
The 12-time gold medalist reiterated his view that a stranger pointed a gun at him and demanded money to let him leave. Lochte had called it a robbery; Brazilian police said he and three other swimmers vandalized a gas station bathroom after a night of partying and were confronted by armed security guards.
“Regardless of the behavior of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that am sorry,” Lochte said.
Lochte, who was silent about the situation after he returned to the United States earlier this week, said he wanted to wait to share his thoughts until the legal situation was addressed and his teammates were allowed to come home.
Two of the other swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, were on their way Friday after being held in Brazil to testify. The fourth swimmer, Jimmy Feigen, made a deal with a judge to make a $10,800 payment and be allowed to leave the country later Friday, his lawyer said.
“We accept and appreciate his apology,” said Mario Andrada, spokesman for the local organizers of the Rio Games.
The drama surrounding the alleged robbery — and the ever-changing descriptions of it by the swimmers — has shocked and deeply angered Brazilians, who said it cast a false negative shadow on their city and their Olympics during an enormous moment. The saga also dominated Olympic headlines, overshadowing worthy accomplishments of athletes who trained for years just to get to Rio and set records during their performances. The situation was an enormous embarrassment for the U.S. Olympic team, which has dominated in the medal count.
“There has already been too much said and too many valuable resources dedicated to what happened last weekend, so I hope we spend our time celebrating the great stories and performances of these games,” Lochte said.
Rapid developments early Friday came hours after police announced that Lochte and three of his teammates had not been held at gunpoint, as Lochte claimed. Instead, Brazilian police said the men vandalized the bathroom while intoxicated, were questioned by guards, then paid for the damage and left.
“No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed,” Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said.
As Bentz and Conger flew home Thursday night, their attorney insisted they were witnesses only and had nothing to do with Lochte’s story.
“They did not make any untruthful testimony. They did not lie in their statements,” lawyer Sergio Riera told The Associated Press.
AP reporters Cristiana Mesquita, Beth Harris, Chris Lehourites, Pauline Arrillaga, Tim Reynolds and Renata Brito in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.